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Bill introduced allowing pets in outdoor eateries

Measure comes on heels of public health post banning animals from restaurants
September 10, 2019

After community outcry over a recent Delaware Division of Public Health post telling pet owners to keep their pooches home when going out to eat, a bill introduced Aug. 30 is meant to clear the way at outdoor seating areas.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he sponsored the bill after an August social media post by DPH reminded residents that Delaware Code bars pets from restaurants. The post evoked the ire of pet owners across the Cape Region and caused some eateries to enforce the pet ban.

“I was just as surprised as they were to hear that this regulation was a long-standing rule that simply wasn’t enforced for years. I used to bring my dog with me to breakfast all the time and never knew anything about this policy,” Schwartzkopf said.

Delaware Public Health officials said they did not intend to enforce the law; they only meant to inform residents of it.

Schwartzkopf said he reached out to public health officials, and House Bill 275 should clear up any confusion. 

“I decided the best thing to do was to sponsor legislation making it clear that restaurant owners can decide for themselves whether to allow pets to accompany their owners at their outdoor seating areas. Bottom line: This was a regulation that wasn’t being enforced, so we should get rid of it. This bill will just return things to the status quo many have enjoyed for years,” he said.

House Bill 275 would permit the owner of a beer garden or food establishment to permit leashed dogs on licensed outdoor patios of food establishments and in beer gardens. Schwartzkopf said the establishment still would need to abide by any health regulations and cleanliness rules.

The bill has 18 co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Administration Committee. The General Assembly is on recess and will return Jan. 14, 2020.